Tuesday, April 20, 2010

5 Key Questions - Focus: Triple-A Salt Lake Bees 2010

By David Saltzer - Angelswin.com Senior Columnist
As both the Major League and Minor League seasons start, it’s time for Angels fans to get back into the rhythm of the game. In the last part of our series at the start of the season AngelsWin.com will be taking a close look at the Angels’ Triple-A team in Salt Lake and asking the 5 key questions to which the fans need to pay attention. After the June 2010 Draft, we will resume the series to get to know the 5 key questions for the rookie affiliates as their clubs take shape and prepare for the short seasons.

Question #1: Can we leadoff with anyone other than Bourjos?
Salt Lake got an interesting and dynamic player in Peter Bourjos. Last year’s recipient of the Angels’ Defensive Player of the Year award, Bourjos has drawn comparisons to Gary Pettis and Devon White in the outfield. He covers a lot of ground, and could become the future of the franchise in CF—if not a future gold glover.

As exciting as Bourjos is to watch in the field, it’s on the base paths where Bourjos can really fly. He projects as a 50+ SB player in the Major Leagues, although, he does need to work on picking his spots better. Bourjos flashed that speed during Spring training stealing 9 bases in 10 attempts. That had him finishing second overall in SBs, finishing only behind Carlos Gomez who stole 11 bases in 33 more ABs (Bourjos accomplished his total in just 40 ABs).

As for his power, Bourjos has shown that power does not always have to come from HRs. On Friday, April 16, 2010, Bourjos set a franchise record for the Bees and tied a Minor League record by clubbing 3 triples in 1 game! Overall, Bourjos projects to have mostly gap power, which he can extend into triples, but could hit 8-12 HRs in a season as he matures.

Besides his health, Bourjos’ biggest barrier towards making the Major Leagues is his ability to get on base. While previous Angels’ teams might have been more comfortable with a player hitting his way on base, the new Angels expect more from the leadoff hitter. Bourjos needs to work the count better and have better pitch recognition if he’s going to successfully make the jump to Anaheim.

While the PCL’s PA announcers are going to have some difficulty pronouncing Bourjos’ name as they get to know him, there’s one thing that Angels fans can be assured of: The opposing team’s managers how to pronounce Bourjos’ name as he will be the menace leading off for the Bees and running down the fly balls in their outfield.

Question #2: Is Conger defensively ready to play #2 for Scioscia?
Last year, Hank Conger showed that he could be healthy enough to play a full season behind the dish. He put aside all those lingering questions about durability (which had nothing to do with durability and had more to do with freak injuries) by playing 87 games as the Double-A catcher and an additional 36 games as the club’s DH.

Conger has a strong bat. But, last year, he worked hard to improve his strike zone, and increased his OB% by 33 points to .368. He walked 55 times and only struck out 68 times last year in 459 ABs. Playing in Salt Lake should do wonders for Conger’s slugging percentage as many of the parks in the league are launching pad. With a full season in the Majors, Conger could hit 20-25 HRs.

One of Conger’s biggest challenges towards making it in the Major Leagues will be his defense. As Angels fans know, Scioscia expects that his catchers will be defensively sound first and offensive weapons second. While Conger is good at blocking balls in the dirt, he still needs to refine his throw to 2B. During Spring Training, Conger spent a lot of time working on his defense with Scioscia, and hopefully that should translate into improved defense.

With Mathis and Napoli ahead of him, Conger is not going to be rushed. But, his progress will result in a logjam that may necessitate a trade to clear. Look for Conger to get most, if not all, of 2010 under his belt at Salt Lake to give him more seasoning.

Question #3: Where does Trumbo play?
During Spring Training, many fans were confused because it seemed that Mark Trumbo was only putting in his work at first base. This was because both Abe Flores and Eddie Bane had previously told AngelsWin.com that the outfield experiment with Trumbo would continue. With Kendry Morales slugging away on the parent club, the move to the outfield seemed inevitable, so seeing Trumbo do so many drills and solely play at first base was a bit perplexing. 

Under Scioscia, though, the Angels are firm believers in depth. So, with no one ready to fill Kendry’s shoes in the event of an injury, it made sense to work Trumbo out at first base for most of Spring Training and even at the start of the Minor League season. Defensively, Trumbo is average at the position, but still improving, and needed the concentrated work at the position to be a ready backup.

However, when Quinlan got sent down to Salt Lake, Trumbo was freed from providing the depth at first base for the organization, and was able to resume the outfield experiment. He has been doing so ever since. So far, Trumbo has shown slightly above average range in the OF and a plus arm, though he is still a work in progress.

The key for Trumbo making the Major Leagues is his bat. As Eddie Bane said on March 29th, “If Trumbo hits the ball over the fence he will play somewhere. You can’t find the kind of power that Mark has.” Still, Trumbo still needs to be more selective at the plate in order to be successful in the Majors.

For all those fans who wanted a “Jason Bay” type bat this past offseason, that bat might exist at Salt Lake. With a full year of development both offensively and defensively, the Angels could have a true power hitter ready for their outfield by 2011 at a fraction of the cost.

Question #4: What are Bell and O’Sullivan up to?
Last year, injuries and the traumatic loss of Nick Adenhart sapped away the Angels’ strength in pitching. Two prospects, Trevor Bell and Sean O’Sullivan were rushed up to the Majors during the 2009 season to fill the gaps left by both. At times both pitchers flashed signs of brilliance, and the potential to be future workhorses in the rotation. At other times, though, both fell flat. Still, both are considered top talent pitchers who could step into the rotation should the need arise.

Between the two, Trevor Bell is considered to have the slightly greater upside. Ranking as the #14 prospect by AngelsWin.com, Bell throws a 92-94 mph fastball that has some good life to it. His slider can be good, but, still needs some work. Unfortunately, Bell is on the 7-Day Disabled List for Salt Lake and has yet to pitch this season.

Coming in as the AngelsWin.com’s #16 overall prospect, Sean O’Sullivan showed true promise when he pitched a no-hitter (and almost a perfect game) on July 28th, 2009. O’Sullivan throws a low-90s fastball and a plus changeup. His breaking pitch is a solid third offering, with some late bite to it.

O’Sullivan’s keys to success are keeping his pitches down in the zone and attacking the zone. He needs to work efficiently on the mound and put batters away before he runs up his pitch count or before he falls behind. When he’s doing that, he is a capable middle of the rotation pitcher. So far O’Sullivan seems to be succeeding in that, as he has a 16:5 K:BB ratio in 17.1 IP this year.

Both Bell and O’Sullivan are on-call should the need arise on the parent club. Hopefully neither will be necessary this season, but, both understand that they may be called upon again by the Angels. Both should show improvement from last year and both should be ready to become workhorses by 2011.

Question #5: Can Reckling really be left off of this list?
Debuting as the AngelsWin.com #1 prospect for 2010, we would be remiss if we left out Trevor Reckling from our list of Key Questions. Reckling brings a host of questions with him, most notably, when can he be expected in Anaheim.

After dominating Single-A and Double-A hitters, Reckling once again begins the season as one of the youngest players in his league. At just 20 years old, Reckling is facing competition that is typically 3-4 years older than him. But that has not shown to be a hindrance for him in the past. As one of the youngest players in the Texas League, Reckling earned an All-Star spot all while competing against players 3-4 years older than him at the time.

A southpaw, Reckling brings a plus curve, plus slider, plus changeup and average fastball as his arsenal to attack the hitters. Although his mechanics have a lot of moving parts, he uses that to keep hitters off-balanced and to disrupt their timing. His curveball has a 12-6 drop which he can throw for a strikeout late in a count and is very effective against lefties. Against righties, his slider is an effective weapon.

Reckling profiles as a true top of the rotation pitcher for the Angels. While Reckling still needs to work on his command and pitch reproducibility. With all of his moving parts in his over-the-top delivery, Reckling can struggle with his location at times.

With the offseason addition of Pineiro, the Angels are in no rush to push Reckling through the system. They can afford to be patient with him so that he matures into a true frontline pitcher. AngelsWin.com believes and hopes that Reckling will be ready sometime in 2011, where he can fill the void left by another remarkable young pitcher who similarly showed tremendous promise.
Love to hear what you think!


Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

AngelsWin Media

We Recommend

 photo 8fbce79f-4964-43ef-a13d-ff1832b5e9a4_zpsd3c2ece7.jpg
Click on the picture above to pick up a copy of Rob Goldman's latest on Angels' great, Nolan Ryan. A Must Read for every fan of the Angels!

AngelsWin.com Website Store

 photo t_zps6af139fc.gif
Copyright © 2013 Los Angeles Angels Blog | AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com is the unofficial website of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Our comments and views do not express the views of the major league club or anyone affiliate with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  AngelsWin.com blog content, articles and opinions are provided "as is" and without warranties of any kind.  We disclaim warranties, express or implied, including warranties for a particular purpose, accuracy, completeness, availability, security, compatibility and non-infringement.  Blog material, articles and other information furnished or supplied by you to AngelsWin.com become the ownership of AngelsWin.com for use at our discretion.  Your use of AngelsWin content is at your own discretion and risk. We do not warrant that any content here be error free that access thereto will be uninterrupted or errors will be corrected. We do not warrant or make any representations regarding  the use of any content made available through AngelsWin.com  You hereby waive any claim against us with respect thereto. AngelsWin.com may contain the opinions and views of other members and users. We cannot endorse, guarantee, or be responsible for the accuracy, efficacy or veracity of any content generated by our members and other users. The content of AngelsWin.com is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. Such content is not intended to, and does not, constitute legal, professional, medical or healthcare advice or diagnosis, and may not be used for such purposes. Reliance on any information appearing on AngelsWin.com is strictly at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in, or accessible through, the AngelsWin.com without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or professional licensed in the recipient's state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.